With a failure to launch at the World Cup for the big three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, a Ballon d’Or spot has opened for Luka Modric
What’s up with this sudden ‘Luka Modric for Ballon d’Or’ fever going on?
In one of the most unexpected twists of a World Cup about to expire its last breath, the lack of star power after Messi and Cristiano leaving the party early has forced fans to take a second look at Croatia’s mastermind – Luka Modric.
Let’s be honest: nobody expected a France v Croatia showdown in the final. And yet, if you pay close attention, it is the fixture that makes the most sense. France have ‘Deschamp-ed’ their way to the seventh and final game of the tournament, boring everyone to death but being as clinical and efficient as possible. A single Umtiti header was enough to let them march over poor Belgium in semi-finals.
That’s not Croatia’s style. Nope. Croatia are *exciting* to watch. Their lack of world-class strikers up front (Mario Mandzukic is a trooper, but he’s no Kylian Mbappé or Antoine Griezmann) has more than made up for it with an absolute delight of a midfield, with Barça’s Ivan Rakitic adding the muscle and positioning…and Madrid’s Luka Modric running the show.
Since Modric was signed from Tottenham in the summer of 2012, the Croatian’s gradual improvement is the textbook example of climbing the ladder. He had to fight initial resistance from the fans, adapt to lightning-fast Spanish football, improve his physical condition and, finally, become a team leader and clutch player in a side who had Cristiano Ronaldo and plenty of others to deliver the goods in that area. And he did so.
It took two or three seasons and some tough injuries along the way, but over the last three Champions League wins he became that crucial individual who is able to unlock tight games with a magical pass or a mighty strike from outside the box.
But why exactly has the ‘Modric for Ballon d’Or’ campaign risen in the past few days?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: it’s true that Modric’s tournament has been absolutely brilliant, piling up masterclass after masterclass. He’s been chosen Man of the Match in three out of the six games played to date (against Nigeria, Argentina and hosts Russia), scored twice and been a source of leadership and inspiration for his team-mates. Luka, now 32, might be facing his one and only shot at becoming a legend for his country.
In addition, he conquered earlier this season the FIFA Club World Cup and the Champions League with Real Madrid, adding two more trophies to his collection. With both Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo unceremoniously knocked out in the Last 16 round, a void has been left to to fill. Croatia, with its fun and dynamic style, has quickly grown into a fan-favourite. The fact that they’re the underdog in the final against France only enhances this feeling. There’s also an eagerness to break free from the two-headed tyranny we’ve been experiencing over the past ten years, with Cristiano and Messi completely hogging every single individual prize.
Nothing should detract from his impressive performance in this World Cup. While Barça fans complain that Ivan Rakitic should also be a candidate (he’s a Copa del Rey and LaLiga winner, and could complete his ‘Treble’ if they defeat France), the fact is that he hasn’t been as decisive as Modric in the tournament. But, if we really want to be fair, we should think out of the box. Because Modric and Rakitic work best when paired together, right? Why not share the Ballon d’Or?
As outrageous as the idea might sound, it isn’t the first time an injustice has taken place due to the ‘special’ terms of the award: back in 2010, Leo Messi was the winner when everybody and their dog knew that the amazing combo Xavi Hernández-Andrés Iniesta were the ones who really deserved it after their brilliant win in South Africa. Maybe the Ballon d’Or panel at France Football should put up the Croatian midfield duo as a joint candidate – the honour would be completely deserved.